Tuna noodle casserole from scratch is creamy and delicious without a can of cream of mystery soup. Make a healthier, more wholesome recipe with simple ingredients. Dig in to this hot and comforting classic and see tuna in a whole new light!Jump to Recipe
There are a lot of no-brainer casseroles in the world and they all start with a can of cream of blah soup. If you’ve never had any homemade cream sauces, let me tell you: You’ll realize that the can is disgusting afterward.
Change what’s on your plate and change your life. This is one time when it’s really worth it.
Going canned soup-less is the way to a better meal
It might sound like a pain to make your own cream sauce here but it’s worth it. First off, it’s better for your health than preservative and additive-loaded store-bought versions.
It also gives you a lot more control over the flavor and texture of your casserole from scratch. You can adjust the levels of salt, pepper, parmesan, lemon juice, etc., or even change the seasoning and/or kind of cheese altogether.
Plus, you can easily make the sauce thinner or thicker by adding more or less chicken stock.
Health and logistics aside, homemade cream sauce is just a million times tastier. It’s so creamy and flavorful and it coats the noodles and the tuna perfectly.
Tips for making perfect tuna noodle casserole
This is a pretty straightforward casserole to make. That being said, here come some tips and tricks that will take your tuna noodle casserole to the next level.
- Cook to al dente. The noodles will continue to cook in the oven. So, when initially cooking them on the stovetop, do not cook them past al dente (unless you want a soggy casserole).
- Drain the tuna. If you don’t drain the canned tuna, the excess water in the can will make your casserole soggy. Drain the tuna well and break it up into small pieces before mixing it into the casserole.
- Don’t skip the butter crackers. The butter crackers (I like Ritz) add the perfect crunch to this creamy casserole. Sprinkle them over the top and bake until the casserole is golden brown and bubbly.
- Finally, add some grated cheese (I like parmesan) and seasoning.
Ingredients you’ll need for tuna noodle casserole:
Flavor changes and variations for tuna casserole
This recipe is a fantastic baseline recipe for those of you looking to get creative. Here are some fun ways to make this casserole your own.
- Add veggies. Chop up some onions, celery, and/or mushrooms, sauté them in butter until softened, and add them to the casserole for extra flavor and texture.
- Experiment with cheese. Parmesan is great but any cheese will work here. I have been loving cheddar, Swiss, and gouda but the choice is yours. You could even mix and match.
- Play with sauce. Try mixing tangy Dijon mustard or Worcestershire into the sauce.
How to make tuna noodle casserole gluten free
It’s quite simple to make this gluten-full entree gluten-free.
Replace the noodles with your favorite gluten-free alternative, use gluten-free flour to make the roux, and swap the butter crackers out for gluten-free crackers of your choosing.
To make this casserole ahead of time
This is a great make-ahead meal. Assemble the casserole and, instead of baking, wrap it in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
It’s better to leave the butter crackers and melted butter off until you are ready to bake because the crackers can get soggy.
When you are ready to eat, remove the plastic wrap, sprinkle the casserole with breadcrumbs, and bake just as you normally would.
How to make tuna noodle casserole
Sautee onions, celery, garlic and peas in a pot until the celery starts to soften. Transfer them to a plate and make the cream sauce.
How to make homemade cream sauce for tuna noodle casserole
Making homemade cream sauce is easier than you might think and only takes about 10 minutes.
All you have to do is melt some butter in a saucepan and whisk in a bit of flour to make a roux.
From there, slowly pour the milk and broth into the butter-flour mixture, whisking as you go. Continue to whisk until the sauce thickens.
To finish homemade tuna noodle casserole, add lemon juice, parsley and parmesan cheese to the white sauce and stir to combine.
Add the vegetables, pre cooked egg noodles and the drained tuna and stir gently to combine.
Transfer the mixture to a 9×13 baking dish and top with parmesan cheese and a blend of crushed butter crackers. Bake it until golden and bubbling.
How to store and freeze tuna noodle casserole
This tuna noodle casserole makes for fantastic leftovers. Allow the casserole to cool completely before wrapping the baking pan in plastic wrap.
Alternatively, you can transfer the contents of the casserole dish to an airtight container.
Either way, store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Ready to dive in? Allow the casserole to thaw in the refrigerator overnight (if applicable), transfer it to a baking dish, and bake at 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes or until heated through.
5 side dish ideas to serve with tuna and noodle casserole
- Classic Caesar Salad with Homemade Dressing
- Pear Salad with Gorgonzola and Walnuts
- Creamy Mashed Potatoes
- Sautéed Green Beans with Mustard and Shallots
- No Knead Dutch Oven Bread
- Southern Collard Greens Recipe with Ham Hocks
Homemade Tuna Noodle Casserole
- 8 ounces medium egg noodles
- 4 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup celery diced into ½” pieces
- 1/4 cup onion diced into ½” pieces
- 3/4 cup frozen peas
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 14.5- ounce box good quality chicken broth just under 2 cups, homemade preferred
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice plus more as needed
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
- 1 cup parmesan cheese divided
- 5 ounces can chunk light tuna packed in water
For the Topping
- 1/2 cup Ritz crackers crushed
- 1 tablespoon butter melted
- Cook the noodles in boiling salted water one to two minutes less than the package recommends, drain and set aside.
- In a small bowl mix the crushed crackers and melted butter. Set aside.
- While the pasta cooks, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery, onion, peas, and garlic and saute until the celery starts to soften (about 3 to 4 minutes). Remove vegetables to a plate and set aside.
- Add the remaining 3 tablespoons butter to the pan over medium heat and let it melt. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 30 seconds. Add chicken broth and milk, whisking constantly until smooth, thickened and bubbly; about 2-3 minutes. The mixture should coat the back of a spoon.
- Turn off the heat and add salt, lemon juice, parsley, and ½ cup of the parmesan cheese. Taste the sauce and season with additional salt, pepper, or lemon juice, as needed.
- Stir in the egg noodles, sauteed vegetables and tuna, stirring gently to combine so you don’t break the tuna up too much.
- Pour the mixture into a 9×13’’ or similar size baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining ½ cup parmesan cheese.
- Add the crushed crackers on top.
- Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.